TEL AVIV – Money funneled to the Palestinian Authority “does not provide value to the U.S. taxpayer,” a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday, following a decision to cut more than $200 million in aid to the government in Ramallah.
“That money at this time is not … [in] the U.S. national interest and also at this time does not provide value to the U.S. taxpayer,” Heather Nauert said.
“The United States government has provided far more money than many other countries in the region have,” she added.
“We believe that the United States alone does not have to shoulder a disproportionate share of financing programs overseas,” she said. “The United States is the most generous country in the world and we continue, by and large, to be the most significant donor to many programs around the world, but we also feel that other countries should step up and take responsibility.”
On Friday, the State Department announced that President Donald Trump had ordered the aid cut.
The announcement comes on the heels of a review examining U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.
According to the official, Washington seeks “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with U.S. national interests and provide value to the U.S. taxpayer.”
“As a result of that review,” the official continued, “at the direction of the president, we will redirect more than $200 million in [fiscal year 2017] economic support funds originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza. Those funds will now address high-priority projects elsewhere.”
Friday’s funds were earmarked for health and educational programs, in addition to assistance for Palestinian governance in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the responsibility to fund the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, cannot lie solely with the U.S. when oil-rich states like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait do not do their part.
In January, the U.S. cut its aid to UNRWA to $60 million from $350 million. However, on Tuesday Foreign Policy reported that at a meeting earlier this month between Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the decision was made to cut all funding to the UN agency.
Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the head of UNRWA, implied that the U.S. aid cuts were intended to punish the Palestinians for their reaction to the U.S.’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“One cannot simply wish 5 million people away,” Kraehenbuehl said, citing numbers in dispute.
PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said the Trump administration “has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources; now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation.”
The PLO’s envoy to Washington responded to the latest cut by saying that the Trump administration was “weaponizing” humanitarian aid.
“This administration is dismantling decades of U.S. vision and engagement in Palestine,” Husam Zomlot said in a statement.